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My parents weren’t excited about me fleeing the city to head to the other side of the country. I mean, British Columbia? Why not stay home and go to York, Ryerson, or even U. of T.? Well, none of my friends were in Toronto and so I thought that maybe it was my time to explore this vast country we call “Canada”.

“Canada” doesn’t mean, “Explore”. It means “Village” or “Settlement” according to the St. Lawrence Iroquoians or less directly, Wikipedia. “Kanata”, that’s how the Iroquoians would write it. But I would argue that if Kanata really means “Settlement”, then I was trying to find a new place to settle and I thought of possibly settling in British Columbia. But I didn’t tell my parents any of this, I just told them it was time I left the big city and travelled.

“Art, you’re going to get so lonely and if something were to happen to you, you’d be so far away,” was my mom’s comment when I told her I had been accepted by U.O.K.

“Mom, I’ll be fine. I’ll skype you every day and maybe even call once in a while. I’ll send you some letters so we don’t lose Canada Post and possibly some emails just to stay with the modern times. You’ve got to balance out the old and the new. I’ll be fine though. Plus, U.O.K. accepted me when no other university did.”

I was lying. But every kid does, especially at nineteen. Who calls their parents every day? If she thought I’d be homesick, the last thing I wanted to do was call her every day. That would make me homesick. But you know you’ve got to sugarcoat things if you want to leave. And I needed to please my parents so they knew I was safe and so they didn’t have heart attacks when I disappeared from their lives.

“What about York or Ryerson? I hear they accept a lot of students fresh out of high school.”

“I don’t want to be in the city anymore. All my friends are gone. I think it’s time I left too.”

“But you could make new friends in Toronto.”

“Mom, I’m leaving this city!”

My mom put her hands up in surrender as if I was personally attacking her. “I’m sorry, Art. I just think you haven’t thought through all your possibilities. But if you want to remain stubborn, fine. I’m sure your sister will miss you.”

Great, the sister guilt trip. Didn’t my mom realize that in a few years my sister would probably be leaving this fabulous nest she was in love with? Maybe my sister wouldn’t go so far. Maybe she’d go to Montréal or Kingston, but she’d still be leaving. I guess my mom just thought that would be more convenient for her. You know, some place close like Montréal or Kingston. At least she could drive to Montréal or Kingston. Sure Montréal would take about six hours, but that’s better than a four-day drive to B.C., or about a four-hour plane ride. Do you know how much plane tickets cost? They’re expensive.

So when I was finally at the Pearson airport with my bags packed, my family looked shocked. It’s like they didn’t believe it was happening. I was leaving.

My seventeen-year-old sister hugged me for a good three minutes. “I’ll miss you, Art,” she said at the Departures door.

“I will too.”

After she let go, it was my dad’s turn. My mom just stood there with her arms crossed. “What you’re doing is stupid. You’re going to regret it,” she warned me as tears welled up in her eyes.

“Mom, are you seriously not going to hug your only son goodbye?” I asked her after my dad let go of me. His hug lasted about a minute.

My mom wiped the tears from her eyes and hugged me for a good five minutes. “Be careful.” That’s all she said and then I was off.

I had never been on a plane before. I had lived in Toronto my entire life and though I had visited Florida and the cottage area, I had never been on a plane. We drove to Florida.

When I sat down in my fourteen E seat, there was a boy sitting beside me. He was drumming his fingers on my armrest when I sat down and I stuck out my hand to him once my backpack was safely stuffed under the seat in front of me. “Hey, I’m Art.”

The boy looked at my hand as if I had some deformed limb growing out of my body. He removed his black headphones and stared directly at me. “Sorry?” he asked. His headphones dangled around his neck, expecting this little conversation of mine to be short.

I’m Art,” I repeated with enthusiasm.

“Joe,” he told me and shook my hand. “U.O.K.?”

“Yeah,” I replied. It was cool to know that Joe was going to the same place.

I’ve met a friend, I thought.

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